Thursday, June 14, 2012

Size Doesn't Matter

After visiting my sister at Vassar last year, I always thought that I didn't want to go to a 'small school' of only a couple thousand. I always imagined myself at a big school in the middle of a city. This trip is really creating conflicts with what I thought I wanted, and what I'm now thinking sounds a lot more attractive. The most convincing cases are Wesleyan from yesterday, and today, Dartmouth.

Though we had to roll out of bed pretty early to leave, I slept for a good portion of the three and a half hour drive. Unfortunately, I had the middle seat, with no head rest, so I was jolted awake every time there was a sudden brake, acceleration, or bump in the road. I was wide awake though, when we arrived at the sunny campus of Dartmouth. My first thought when we arrived was that it looked a lot bigger than the other campuses. It was also a lot greener, but that was mostly due to the fact that the weather was not dreary and overcast. 

There were also some students, just chilling around, which I thought was strange at first; it was clarified to me, during the information session, that this is a completely standard number of people to be taking classes during the summer. The way they organize their classes, called the "D Plan", is such that there are four quarters, but instead of always having summer off, leave can be taken at any time. For example, a typical sophomore year would be summer at school, fall back at home, winter abroad, and spring back on campus. This system is really interesting to me, because there are a lot more opportunities that are open. If an internship was only available during winter, I could take winter off, do the internship, and still have a solid amount credits at the end of the year. 

The Dartmouth campus on a beautiful sunny day
After the info session, we went on a tour of campus. Our tour guide, Elise, was a rising senior majoring in geography who was really outgoing and social. We walked to only a few places on campus, but they were all equally beautiful. Some freshman dorms had just been built, so there was a mix of different 'characters' that the buildings had. Elise had more questions on the social aspect of college, so we got to hear a lot about Greek life. Dartmouth has the highest percent of students who have pledged, around 70%. However, we were told that it's not necessary to have an awesome time. I'm really considering my options when it comes to sororities, so I'm happy to learn about what they're like at each college.

After a short period of sight-seeing, we made our way to the Canoe Club, a sweet restaurant themed around, well, canoes. We all arrived there earlier than the current students and admissions officers, but we didn't have to wait long. June Chu, the Undergraduate Assistant Dean sat with us and gave us contact information, in case we had any questions about the application process. One Assistant Director of Admissions, Justine Modica, was also hugely helpful with problems we had about the whole process. Fears about the essay, and actually choosing a college to attend were really prominent, especially the latter for me. Choosing a college is a life-changing decisions, so there's a lot of stress about not 'messing up' and going somewhere you can't be happy. Thanks to Justine, and Sam, a rising sophomore staying at school taking classes, I'm now convinced that I can be happy and successful anywhere, regardless of the size of the school. It just depends on if the school fits you, and the number of students is only one factor. Sam and Janne, another rising sophomore who's majoring in pre-med, talked about their (very different) reasoning to go to Dartmouth. 

Janne is from a small town in Pennsylvania, and was one of two people at her school to attend an Ivy League. She had never even heard of Dartmouth until she was interested in Princeton. After she toured Princeton, she stopped by Dartmouth and immediately fell in love with the campus, and the people. So, she instead applied to Dartmouth and it's apparent that she wholeheartedly loves it. She, and Sam, are both UGA's, Undergraduate Assistants, who are similar to Resident Assistants, but undergrads and less judgmental. They have meetings every month, or week, and talk about how they're doing, or if they need any advice. 

Sam grew up in Hanover, and went to the local high school. He had some legacy going on, with his parents and grandfather going to Dartmouth. He had a lot of stories about his experience with his first year, like the huge snowball fight at midnight the first day it snows, or the giant bonfire at Homecoming. But because half of his double major, Economics and Italian, really appealed to me, I was really grateful for sitting across from him. I've heard of the Tuck School of Business many times while I was searching for colleges with strong business programs, but seeing the campus it's on in person is an almost surreal experience. And actually getting to talk to someone who's taken my dream classes is too fantastic for words. 

Everyone at the lunch was exceedingly helpful and enthusiastic for all of us and our futures. Talking about what our plans are, and hearing all of the anecdotes that made Dartmouth less surreal and more 'real' over a delicious poached pear salad and butterscotch mousse was an incredible opportunity that has gotten me drunk on passion for the whole Ivy League.
On the way home, we took a quick stop at a Massachusetts rest stop

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